Taking care of his own
From whom was Premier Doug Ford taking advice when he decided to slash the budget of Legal Aid Ontario by 30 per cent and eliminate funding for refugee and immigration law services?
Was it former Ontario Premier Mike Harris?
We ask these questions because this backward, wrong-headed idea by Ford to slash funding for Legal Aid Ontario looks and smells like something that came from Harris.
And let us not forget that it was Ford himself who during the provincial election campaign last year said that he was “taking care of our own.”
This remark during a debate among provincial political leaders was seen as anti-immigrant and racist.
And several attempts to put a different “spin” on it, after the debate, left many of us unconvinced that it was not an anti-immigrant remark.
Since the recently announced budget cuts, we have heard from lawyers about what the slashes will mean for poor, disadvantaged people in the province, including refugees and immigrants.
Dana Fisher, a legal aid lawyer and a spokeswoman for the union representing 350 Legal Aid Ontario lawyers, described the budget cut as horrific.
“You’re looking at immediate impacts to defending people’s rights to liberty, to access to justice, to people being able to fight for custody of their children and access to their children, including women who are fleeing domestic violence,” she said.
And as for the immigrants and refugees, Fisher warned that the cut will put lives at risk.
“From the immigration perspective, these are individuals who are facing extradition and torture and persecution and these are real lives that are going to suffer as a result of these cuts,” she explained
But does Ford and his band of no-so-progressive Conservatives really care?
We have no absolutely reason to believe that they do.
The Law Society of Ontario has said the overall cut to Legal Aid’s budget will have a significant impact on vulnerable Ontarians.
“This major reduction in such a short period of time will cause increased court delays and threatens to seriously disrupt the administration of justice,” Malcolm Mercer, the treasurer of the Society has said.
Is Doug Ford listening?
Or is he just taking care of his own?
And is he planning to build a wall between “his own” and the rest of us?
As Laura Mae Lindo, NDP critic for Citizen and Immigration Service, said in the Ontario Legislature this week, “Legal aid ensures everyone in Ontario has access to justice, regardless of their status or income ” and “no one should be denied justice because they don’t have the money to pay for a lawyer. ”
Newcomers, including refugees, needed to be treated with respect and should be entitled to the services which Legal Aid Ontario has been providing.
Rather than slash the funding for Legal Aid Ontario, the government should consider providing more money for it to do what it was really set up to do.
We need to pay close attention to what is happening at Queen’s Park and send a message to Doug Ford to let him know, beyond any doubt, that we disapprove of his non-progressive policies.
Congratulations to the awardees
Last Sunday, at Police Headquarters in Toronto, more than 20 persons, including several from the Black community who may never have considered themselves heroes, received community awards for selfless acts of courage, bravery , compassion and vigilance.
At this time when there is often a lot of bad news about interactions between police and members of the Black community, we are pleased to report that some Black citizens have demonstrated their willingness to assist the police in situations where their help was needed.
As Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders noted at the awards ceremony, “ putting others before self really is a true testament and definition of what we are as Canadians and Torontonians.”
“You have helped make this city the great city that it is,” Chief Saunders told the awardees.
To all of them, we extend our heartiest congratulations